Saint Petersburg


The Naval Capital


St. Petersburg is a city of naval glory and Russia’s acknowledged naval capital, a centre of shipbuilding and training of naval personnel.

This status features in the city’s emblem, on which sea and river anchors are crossed with a sceptre. And the Northern Capital itself is full of marine symbols.


The Rostral Columns on the Vasilievsky Island Point are among the principal marine symbols. The statues at the foot of the columns are architectural symbols of Russian rivers — Volga, Dnepr, Neva and Volkhov. On the columns themselves are rostra (ships’ prows), symbolizing naval victories. The Rostral Columns once acted as lighthouses for incoming ships. On special occasions a guiding flame burns on top of the columns, just as it used to do in years gone by.

Another famous marine symbol of the city is the little ship on the Admiralty spire. The gilded sailing ship shows the wind direction in any weather. And after almost three hundred years it, like the golden spire beneath it, has become one of the symbols of St. Petersburg — a brand, as we would say nowadays. This celebrated St. Petersburg brand was the idea of the Dutch architect Herman van Boles, who supervised the reconstruction of the Admiralty in 1719.


The cruiser “Aurora” is no less famous. Most of us know only one episode from its history: the blank shell it fired as the signal to storm the Winter Palace at 9.45 pm on that fateful day of 25 October 1917 which changed the course of Russian history. However, the history of the cruiser, launched at the New Admiralty Shipyard in 1900, includes even more glorious events. The “Aurora” was part of the Second Pacific Squadron under Vice-Admiral Rozhdestvensky which took part in the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905. From 1900 to 1912 it completed several long-distance voyages with a crew of naval cadets. During the Great Patriotic War the cruiser’s turrets were dismantled and used in the defence of Leningrad. In the Soviet period “Aurora” became a training vessel and was revered as a symbol of the revolution. After several major refurbishments the ship found its permanent restingplace opposite the Nakhimov Naval School.


The submarine “Narodovolets” was built at the Baltic Shipyard in 1927—1931. In the 1930s it was part of the Northern Fleet, it saw naval action in the Baltic during the Great Patriotic War and was part of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet until 1957. From 1957 to 1987 it was used as a training sta tion. In 1989, on the initiative of veteran submariners, “Narodovolets” was installed on the shore of the Gulf of Finland as a monument. In 1994, after reconstruction and restoration, it became a museum in which visitors have to climb through horizontal and vertical hatches and clamber up and down steep narrow stairways.


Not far from the Mining Institute on Lieutenant Schmidt Embankment is one of the most unusual museums in the Northern Capital: the legendary icebreaker “Krasin”, the world’s only functioning ice-breaker museum. The vessel, with a displacement of 10,200 tons and a 10,000 horsepower engine, was commissioned by the Russian Ministry of Trade and Industry and built by the Armstrong company in Newcastle-uponTyne in 1916. It was originally given the sonorous and vibrant name of “Svyatogor” and for a long time (until the introduction of nuclear submarines) it was one of the most powerful ice-breakers in the world. However, “Svyatogor” did not serve the Russian Empire for long: shortly after the 1917 revolution it was sunk during the struggle with foreign intervention. The British raised the ice-breaker and towed it away, and for several years it sailed under the British flag. Then, thanks to the efforts of Leonid Krasin, the Soviet ambassador in Britain at the time, the ship returned to Russia and was even renamed “Krasin” in honour of its “liberator”. Before becoming a museum the ice-breaker ploughed the northern seas, clearing a way through the pack ice for commercial and research vessels. Its crew took part in numerous rescue expeditions: for example, it saved the passengers of the steamship “Chelyuskin” who were marooned on the ice. But the “Krasin” became worldfamous on account of two rescue operations in the late 1920s: it saved the crew of the “Italia” airship which had crashed near the North Pole, and also the German steamship “Monte Cervantes” with 1,500 passengers and 318 crew members on board.


Summer marine festival is Navy Day, traditionally held on the last Sunday in July, which this year is the 30th. It is always accompanied by an extensive cultural programme, sports competitions, fetes and concerts featuring stars, but the main event is always the naval parade, which this year will take place in the Kronstadt roads. It is expected to include 36 naval vessels from all four Russian fleets. Among them will be the heavy nuclear missile cruisers “Dmitry Donskoy” and “Peter the Great” and the missile cruiser “Marshal Ustinov”. They will be kept company by the world-famous Russian tall ships “Sedov”, “Mir” and “Kruzenshtern”.

Where St.Petersburg

November 2018

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